1914 Delage Type AI Sports Tourer

In 1905, Louis Delage’s journey to the top of the French automobile business began about 4km outside of Paris in a tiny workshop in Levallois-Perret, with just three employees and two lathes. A former Peugeot employee, Delage knew from the onset to surround himself with talent, and one of those three original employees was a former chief engineer from Peugeot. In those early years of his firm, Delage produced a series of small voiturettes utilizing off-the-shelf DeDion-Bouton engines. He soon developed an interest in motorsport, and a range of in-house engine designs naturally followed. Gradually, Delage motorcars grew in size, quality, and performance. By 1910, the company built a new factory to accommodate the demand for its latest four-cylinder models. Following World War I, production expanded again to include a six-cylinder model, which ushered in Delage’s interest in Grand Prix and sports car racing. By the 1930s, Delage earned tremendous success on the world motorsport stage and would live on as one of France’s most storied and revered marques.

In 1913, Delage was made four-cylinder and six-cylinder cars. The four-cylinder model, known as the Type AI, was designed in-house by Arthur-Louis Michelat. The AI was also called the “12CV” in France or “14HP” in England. The Type AI featured fairly advanced specification for the time, namely in the side-valve, 2.3-liter monobloc inline-four which paired to a four-speed manual gearbox. The chassis was light and the engine potent for its size, with a low center of gravity for excellent road manners. Braking was by Delage’s two-wheel system, aided by a hand-operated transmission brake. At a time when many small cars were primitive, unreliable, and unrefined, Michelat’s brilliant Delage Type AI was reliable, well-made, and a pure delight to drive.

This 1914 Type AI Sports Tourer is a lovely example of this charismatic and rarely seen Pre-WW1 Delage. Thanks to a long string of attentive, enthusiastic owners, this well-restored car now displays a fabulous patina acquired through years as well-loved VCC tour car. According to the history file, this car was delivered new in Australia via Fraser & Willsford of Sydney. Little else is known of the earliest history; however, correspondence shows it was discovered in the village of Gulargambone, New South Wales in the late 1960s. Following a change of ownership, it came into the hands of John Riley, who performed with the restoration of the chassis and the lovely sports-touring coachwork in the 1980s. In the 1990s, the car came to the UK, with subsequent owners well-documented via correspondence, service records, and V5C registrations.

Today, the Delage Type AI remains in excellent condition, with a wonderfully mellowed restoration. Its body is marvelously proportioned, with low cockpit sides and delicate mudguards. Wire wheels and black wall tires round out the purposeful and sporting appearance. The dark green livery suits the car quite well, accented with red coach stripes and good quality nickel plated fittings, including Vandervell-style bell-shaped headlamps and Brown Brothers cowl lamps, updated to electric operation. The green paint is in fine order, and the alloy skinned, wooden frame body is excellent. Black, button-tufted leather covers the seats and door cards, with bare alloy floors up front and green carpet in the rear. The leather is supple and in excellent condition, with light creasing in the seats that enhance the warm and inviting character of this Delage. Records show the top and tonneau covers were fabricated in 2008 using black Stayfast canvas, with outstanding fit and finish.

The Delage side valve four is quite refined for its class. It has the power to deliver spirited performance, aided by the four-speed manual gearbox. Receipts and records show the leather clutch was updated with modern friction material and the rear wheel brake shoes relined in 2016. Also, the car features an electric starter and rebuilt Bosch magneto. Great care was taken to preserve the patina while improving functionality for touring.

During its time in England, this Delage saw regular use in the hands of a series of enthusiastic owners and VCC members. It was a participant in numerous club events, and it includes a VCC Events Passport issued in 2010. It remains a beautiful car, with lively performance and an eager companion for tours, rallies and on casual weekend outings.  At home motoring around a village or the cruising through the countryside, this rare and attractive Delage Type AI is a marvelous light tourer with a fascinating history.

 

$87,500

Stock number 6417

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